Top 5 Rock and Metal Albums of 2012 – Ruster’s Review
2012 is just about in the bag, as long as that pesky Mayan calendar doesn’t end things prematurely. This has been another crazy year for mankind; hurricanes, global earthquakes, worldwide economic crisis, and Gangham Style! (That’s not meant to belittle those actual tragedies, but come on South Korea, really?!) Not everything was bad, though, as this year saw the culmination of every fanboy’s fantasy in the manifestation of the fantastic 'Avengers' movie. This year also saw the release of the third and final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman' trilogy, 'The Dark Knight Rises'. Horror fans have been given a few TV shows they can finally get behind in AMC’s 'The Walking Dead' and 'American Horror Story: Asylum', and 'Halo 4' and 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 2' will have gamers distracted well into 2013.
But what about 2012’s music?
How has this year shaped up in the minds and ears of rock fans around the world? When it’s all said and done, 2012 could end up being remembered as one of the biggest juggernaut years of rock releases. The market was literally saturated with so many great releases this year it’s almost impossible to narrow down the top five, but I will do my best.
5. Dawnbringer 'Into the Lair of the Sun God'
Dawnbringer jumped onto the national rock radar with the release of their epic first wide release, 2010’s 'Nucleus'. Dawnbringer is the brain child of Pharaoh lead singer and guitarist Chris Black, and his metal pedigree can never be disputed. The range of sounds emanating from 'Nucleu's encompassed everything from Iron Maiden and Motorhead to Black Sabbath. The follow-up album, 2012’s 'Into the Lair of the Sun God', showed that Dawnbringer knows how to craft an excellent concept album, complete with sweeping visuals and engaging storytelling. Listening to this album from start to finish will have the listener transported to a world of swords, ghosts, and gods. Of murder, betrayal, and ultimate loss. Basically it’s Shakespeare if Lemmy was reading it to you. As the track listing is labeled from Roman numerals I through IX it’s difficult to say where one should begin, but track I is an excellent introduction to the style of Dawnbringer, while III and V show off their musical diversity and skill.
4. Halestorm 'The Strange Case of…'
Halestorm managed to circumnavigate the sophomore slump with the release of 2012’s 'The Strange Case of…', the follow up to their 2009 self titled debut. If that album seemed to have more than enough singles, 'The Strange Case Of' will seem like it was crafted with every intention to outdo their first endeavor by a mile. Every song could be considered a single, and there may be at least 5 by the time things are all said and done. Halestorm was just nominated for a Grammy for best rock/metal performance thanks to their first single Love Bites (and so do I.) In a market where female fronted rock bands are becoming more and more common, Lizzy Hale and the boys have set the bar extremely high. Things slow down a bit in the middle of the album but pick right back up with Rock Show, a love letter to those of us who live and breathe for the live concert experience. And if it weren’t for a few carefully placed F Bombs, Here’s To Us might just be the next graduation song heard around the country.
3. The Sword 'Apocryphon'
Hailing from Austin, TX, The Sword have been making a name for themselves since 2003. Playing festivals such as Austin City Limits, Riot Fest in Dallas, and a stint on Metallica’s Orion Fest, The Sword have positioned themselves for an explosion of epic proportions. Their 2012 release, 'Apocryphon', broke into the top 20 of the Billboard 200, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Thanks to extensive touring, The Sword is guaranteed to take their classic and vintage (yet fresh) rock sounds to new heights in 2013. Check out heavy hitting tracks The Beil of Isis and title track Apocryphon for a good introduction to The Sword. If I didn’t know any better I’d say Tony Iommi himself had conjured these songs from wherever War Pigs and Iron Man came from.
2. Deftones 'Koi No Yokan'
Chino Moreno and the boys of Deftones have been going strong for years, even after a tragic car accident left original member and bassist Chi Cheng in a coma back in 2008. Deftones released the fantastic 'Diamond Eye's in 2010, and this year they have followed that up with the equally fantastic 'Koi No Yokan'. Chino has never sounded better, and the production quality is top notch. There is a sense of sadness and anger permeating throughout the album, which can surely be said of almost every Deftones album. This time, however, there is an underlying tone of hope and beauty that transcends the sweeping guitars and pulsating drums. The first two tracks, Swerve City and Romantic Dreams open things up in a familiar Deftones fashion, but Leathers really blows things wide open. Chino sounds like a man possessed by the time he starts screaming, and the rest of the album plays out as a visceral roller coaster of melodic ups and downs. This is a must see live band of 2013, as these songs will no doubt be emotional for both the band to perform and the audience to experience.
1. Stone Sour 'House of Gold and Bones, Pt. 1'
“Game-changing” is an irresponsible term to throw around, especially when concerning rock albums. From Killswitch Engage’s 'Alive or Just Breathing' to Metallica’s Black Album, game-changers aren’t normally recognized as such in their initial releases. Such cannot be said about Stone Sour’s 2012 album, 'House of Gold and Bones, Pt 1'. Being the first half of a 2 part concept album, 'HoGaB Pt. 1' has only been out for a few weeks, yet the positive response has been staggeringly overwhelming. Frontman Corey Taylor has described the concept album as a mix between Pink Floyd’s 'The Wall' and Alice in Chains 'Dirt'. Starting things off with the double single release of Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero, Stone Sour once again proved themselves to be way more than just “that other band with the guys from Slipknot in it.” Jim Root’s guitar solos echo with a passion that only comes along every so often, and Corey Taylor’s vocal abilities range from a deep growling on RU486 to a beautifully reflective and somber tone on Taciturn. 'House of Gold and Bones Pt 2', due out in early 2013 definitely has its work cut out for it, although no one should be doubting Stone Sour’s abilities at this point.
So there you have it. The top 5 rock and metal albums of 2012 as observed by a humble fan of everything that makes our heads bang and our ears bleed. If 2013 is half as good as this year has been then we are in for some fantastic surprises. Keep an eye out for new material from Tool, Alice in Chains, Rob Zombie, and of course Stone Sour.
To close things up, here are a few honorable mentions from this year. Merry Frickin' Christmas!
- Marilyn Manson 'Born Villain'
- In This Moment 'Blood'
- Soundgarden 'King Animal'
- Paradise Lost 'Tragic Idol'
- Gojira 'L’Enfant Sauvage'
- The Offspring 'Days Go By'
- Danko Jones 'Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue'